U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today celebrated the passage and signing of the RESTORE Act with a five-stop coastal Louisiana tour to highlight the positive impacts of the new law on the state's parishes and local communities. The RESTORE Act, which was introduced by Sen. Landrieu and will dedicate 80 percent of BP penalties paid under the Clean Water Act to the Gulf states for ecological and economic restoration, was approved by the Senate and House last week and signed into law by the President on Friday.
Sen. Landrieu visited Jean Lafitte, Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Bell City to talk about the RESTORE Act's benefits, to thank all the Louisianians who dedicated time and energy to this massive effort, and to celebrate with constituents this landmark achievement for our state and the nation.
"The RESTORE Act is a tremendous step forward in jumpstarting critical coastal restoration in Louisiana after the worst environmental accident in our nation's history. This tremendous victory would never have been possible without the broad support of environmental, wildlife and business groups in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast," said Sen. Landrieu. "The RESTORE Act will soon begin bringing billions of dollars into the Gulf Coast -- this is a historic moment for Louisiana."
Funds from the RESTORE Act may be used to help pay for projects outlined in the state's 50-year, $50 billion Coastal Master Plan, which includes 109 projects designed to "improve flood protection for families and businesses, recreate the natural processes that built Louisiana's delta, and ensure that our coast continues to be both a sportsman's paradise and a hub for commerce and activity." Each parish visited by Sen. Landrieu during her coastal tour has projects prioritized in the state's coastal plan. View Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan here.
Sens. Landrieu and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., introduced the RESTORE Act in July 2011. Joining them as original cosponsors of the legislation were Sens. David Vitter, R-La.; Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. This legislation passed the Senate as part of its transportation bill on March 14.
The bill will do the following:
* Dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties charged to BP to the restoration of the Gulf Coast.
* Provide needed resources and flexibility to Gulf Coast states to start economic and ecological recovery immediately. Through the RESTORE Act, 35 percent of the funds in the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund will be allocated directly and equally to the five Gulf Coast states for ecological and economic recovery along the coast. The legislation ensures that funds are spent responsibly and for their intended purpose.
* Establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a Comprehensive Plan for the Gulf Coast focused on ecosystem and coastal restoration. The council will develop and fund a comprehensive plan for the ecological recovery and resiliency of the Gulf Coast. It will be comprised of both federal agency and state representatives. Sixty percent of the funds in the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund will be spent by approval of the federal-state council -- 30 percent as determined solely by the council and 30 percent as determined by the states, with the approval of the council. The state funds will be allocated to each state based on impact.
* Provide for Gulf Coast Research, Science and Technology. Five percent of the funds in the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund will be allocated to Gulf Coast research, science and technology, including fisheries management and ecosystem monitoring and the establishment of a Gulf Coast Center of Excellence in each state.
Last year, the National Oil Spill Commission's report on the BP oil spill recommended that no less than 80 percent of the BP penalty money go to Gulf Coast states for coastal and environmental restoration. And in 2010, the Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force, led by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, issued a report titled "America's Gulf Coast," for Congress to dedicate a significant amount of civil Clean Water Act penalties incurred by those responsible for the spill to the Gulf Coast.
The Clean Water Act allows the Environmental Protection Agency to collect $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled, or $4,300 per barrel if there is a finding of gross negligence, from any party found responsible for an oil spill in federal waters. Based on the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, BP could face fines between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. Without the RESTORE Act, this money would have gone to the U.S. Treasury and the Gulf Coast would have received nothing.